The White Sox continued their “not a rebuild but seriously it’s a rebuild” by trading Addison Reed for Matt Davidson. The presence of Nate Jones made it that much easier to part with Reed. In his two-year career, Jones has thrown almost 150 innings with excellent strikeout and ground ball rates. He walks too many guys, but otherwise has been one of the better relievers in baseball.
Jones has a strange motion, a lot of velocity, and (so far) has soaked up a lot of innings in relief. But the White Sox have demonstrated an ability to generate effective relievers internally as well as a willingness to trade them having also flipped Sergio Santos just two years ago. Might Nate Jones be the next one to go?
With Scott Downs in the fold, the White Sox bullpen for 2014 currently looks something like this:
Hardly awe-inspiring, and Nate Jones is probably the best of the bunch, but there’s a lot of depth here and a lot of unremarkable competence. Even with Nate Jones the White Sox are unlikely to compete for the playoffs in 2014, and without Nate Jones, Daniel Webb may very well replicate Jones’ production. Whereas on the other hand, this team could absolutely use more young bats.
What’s more, and perhaps this is just paranoia on my part, but Robin Ventura didn’t just abuse Addison Reed in a 99-loss season – he hit Jones too. Jones appeared in 15 games in August, and had a few outings in September where he just got completely shelled – could be a coincidence, or it could be fatigue from having made so many appearances. His delivery is a bit violent and he relies heavily on his huge fastball velocity.
Combine all of these elements and you have a similar case to trade Jones as you did for Addison Reed. He is a young, cost-controlled, effective reliever who is likely to command a decent return in a trade. The White Sox have depth at the position, don’t need to be placing a ton of emphasis on the closer position, and need lots of help elsewhere. Jones’ value may be as high as it ever will be, and there’s a risk that his high number of 2013 appearances have negative consequences for his performance moving forward.
With teams still looking for closers and the list of desirable free agents dwindling, it may be a good opportunity to pull the trigger. Baltimore is clearly looking and they have burned bridges with Grant Balfour. Seattle needs to improve in the short term for the Robinson Cano signing to make any sense at all. The Reds, Braves, and Nationals are other contenders that could use Jones’ services in a set up role.
There’s no urgency to flip Nate Jones – but it’s absolutely worth exploring.